‘Coin Toss’ is set in a world of light fantasy or magical realism. We have a gentle story of chance, luck, romance, lottery tickets and financial chicanery. Newcomer Satya Kharkar co-writes, directs, produces and films this story of a magic coin, a Powerball lottery ticket and, of course, romance. As Kharkar’s first feature film outing shot on video, the film has a few rough edges including some flat performances, but is also has charm and promises more from the new filmmaker.
Rating: +1 (-4 to +4) or 6/10.
The main character of our story is a poor but honest and nice guy, Tom Bennett (Joe Mastrino). Bennett wins the audience by taking care of his dying mother and he tries to be certain he treats everybody he knows fairly. The mother gives him his father’s lucky silver dollar. The coin turns out to be really genuinely lucky and it goes to purchase a winning Powerball lottery ticket. The film then becomes a race to steal the ticket, which lots of people possess but nobody ever bothers to sign and turn in. ‘Coin Toss’ begins with a few too many characters for its own good, but they all fit into the plot sooner or later. It helps a little that the characters are somewhat sorted out by a resonant-voice narrator. But there are several threads of action going on at the same time, and they are a little hard to keep straight.
Are you feeling lucky?
As with many low-budget films, there are problems in the casting. The film calls for Tom’s scheming fiancée to be drop-dead gorgeous. Linda (Shirin Caiola) is about as attractive as the film’s finances would allow, but we have to take on faith that everybody in the film is attracted to her. Performances by most of the peripheral characters should not be met with high expectations. Acting for most of the cast is about on the level of a high school play, with several of the actors apparently concentrating on mostly making sure what they say can be understood. Perhaps the most engaging actor is Shalaka Kulkami as Meera, a bag lady who ironically has considerable smarts and whom the viewer knows immediately is a cut above most of the homeless. It somewhat confuses the film that Meera has the dramatic potential to become a romantic lead herself. We know that she ends up all right at the end of the film, but somehow that does not seem to be enough. Her story is just a bit short of being a loose end.
This is a very low budget, direct to video film by first-time feature by director Kharkar. Not surprisingly, it still has a few rough edges. Kharkar himself takes a small role as someone with the unlikely name, Agent Polecat. Actually, several different Kharkars show up in the titles and credits, making the film a family affair. Music by Nik Phoeniks sets the tone of the film handily. It uses its Chicago locations to add some visual interest. I would rate ‘Coin Toss’ a +1 on the -4 to +4 scale or 6/10.
Special kudos for working into the plot references to the great (and tragic) Indian mathematician Srinivasa Ramanujan. There is also some discussion of Chaos Theory, but it is rare to find a scientifically literate comedy.
Mark R. Leeper
© Mark R. Leeper 2013